So I made this super gay rainbow dinosaur who is a powerful magic witch to celebrate!
She is embroidered on glitter galaxy mesh, which is overlaid on rainbow glitter vinyl.
She is quite detailed, and I couldn’t see anything I drew on the galaxy mesh.
So I had this embroideryhack idea.
I put the paper with the sketch for her right in the embroidery hoop, under the mesh, and used a tiny short needle to stitch the outline on. The little needle skids across the surface of the paper and comes back up thru the net easily!
You can see the original sketch above. Once I had a nice outline with my beloved Rico metallic embroidery thread, which behaves so much better than other metallic embroidery thread, I removed the paper. Then I could embroider as usual.
I am loving stitch art on net or mesh for its control and precision, and it is so easy on the hand/wrist.
I talk more about that and the techniques I’m using here and here.
Look at her terrifying teeth!
I don’t know if this kind of symbolist magic art has power in these dark times. I don’t know if I can do anything to help queer people of the world in the places where things are bad or getting worse. But I believe my intent, my love and hope for a better future, were stitched into this mighty gay dinosaur witch. I believe she is strong and fierce. And embroidery feels like a tactile, tender medium for this kind of art spell. I’m thinking about it a lot.
I amassed a huge stockpile of green bling, and bought a discounted Orchard Corset 511 to use as my base.
The green corset was one of the projects I didn’t get to before we left, so I packed all the green jewels and beads and appliques and trims up in a “project kit” and boxed it up.
I unpacked it with the other 400+ boxes last winter. Once my workroom was set up, I started opening project kits and finishing projects. I movedthroughthem at a pretty decent clip! I made the leaf crowns to go with the corset early on, last summer.
I took out the corset and got started on it last August. First I created a bunch of beaded and crystal-covered appliques with some pale green leaf-shaped Venise lace.
I tacked the lace down to netting in an embroidery hoop, then embroidered and bead embroidered it. Then I added velvet leaves (bead embroidered too).
This took about a million years.
Which never bothers me. I like to do textile art slowly, to balance how fast I draw and paint.
Once I had finished a bunch of appliques and had test fitted them on the corset, I modified the corset itself.
Otherwise the corset wouldn’t lace nice and parallel, and it would distort the embroidery and structure of the corset to have a big gap at the bottom.
Sloppily adding handsewn gores like I did is a good way to ruin the structural strength of your corset, but I knew I’d be adding thousands of stitches and layers over the gores. So I wasn’t worried.
When I’m done with one of these beaded corsets it’s basically a cuirasse, an armored breastplate!
It took several months to carefully sew the appliques to the corset, adding bead embroidery as needed to fill in gaps.
I used strong green nylon beading thread I got to make beaded fringe for a lamp in Berkeley in 1999.
I also used beading thread to make strings of variegated beads to sew down onto the corset in curving lines. Because I’m insane, I always sewed back through the beads on the string as I sewed them down, in case the thread broke.
And I think maybe I might want to lend the finished corset to a burlesque dancer or performance artist someday so it should be able to stand up to some abuse.
Panel from Swamp Thing 34, “Rite of Spring”, by Bissette and Totleben
When I started planning it I thought it would be all greens, but since then I’ve learned A LOT about color, mostly through my textile artmaking.
So as I worked on it I decided to add oranges and pinks and burgundies and browns. There are even pyrite-colored rhinestuds all over it, though they’re subtle as hell.
The oranges and warm colors make me think of the love story of Alec and Abby in Swamp Thing, and the orange yams that they shared. It’s a story that’s very meaningful to me, and the best story I know about connecting with nature and The Green.
I’m not a huge nature person, but I love natural symbology and motifs. Working with these colors and shapes really nourished my William Morris heart!
I’m pretty thrilled with the finished corset.
I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with it yet. It feels like a work about nature, and pagan things, and fae things, appropriate to Midsummer. There’s a Midsummer costume party at House of Red Doors in July, and I might wear it to that. I might loan it out for photo shoots, if I found someone trustworthy who wanted to shoot it and they had a model who fit it. I might show it somewhere if there was a show it worked for. Who the hell knows, I just needed to make it, and I’m so glad it’s finally done, almost ten years after I started planning it!
I’ll get better pix of me wearing it soon, with the jewelry and crowns I made to go with it 🙂
*everything you could ever need to know about buying and wearing a corset is here on Lucy’s website. This amazing young woman has created a resource for the corset community that is beyond price. There is info about the relative measurements of OTR and RTW brands, a corset database to guide you in your purchase, and so much more. We love Lucy!
Here’s a crazy little bug embroidery piece I made during 20 hours of waiting around the hospital while my hub got a cyborg upgrade.
I embroidered this on a cut-open green netting bag that some holiday ornaments I bought at Anthropologie for 75% off in 2001 came in.
Unbelievably, when I unpacked the holiday ornaments for our first Christmas tree here, these never-used items were there, still in their bags.
My materials hoarding seemed insane for so long. But now I have better health, a perfect workspace and the support of my Patrons.
I’m whipping through all my old art supplies and long-awaited projects!
I am like a cross between Smaug and Divine.
i got this rainbow glitter vinyl for a Pride project but it did not arrive in time. That is ok! I will still make a thing with it!
Embroidering on net, mesh or tulle is wonderful because it’s so easy and restful on the hand. Since I was working with the demon metallic embroidery thread, that was important!
Most metallic embroidery thread, including these two greens that were leftover from my Green Beaded Corset project “kit”, frays as it is drawn through fabric.
It frays and breaks and makes you crazy. Waxing it is supposed to help but I’ve always feared the wax would attract dust after or not be archival. However using it on netting is a breeze. In the picture you can see I’m cutting the completed bug free of the netting. I glued some extra layers of netting on the back after I finished embroidering to add structural strength.
The outline is done in my beloved Black Pearl Rico Metallic Stickgarn, which never makes a fuss and behaves impeccably on any fabric.
I have been incredibly inspired by the couture embroidery work of Lyudmila Plotnikova, a Russian textile artist.
You can see her work below. In addition to being technically skilled at a level I can only dream of (in my dreams of going to grad school for textile arts), it is much subtler and less lurid than my efforts! Her eye and hand are equally exquisite.
Jewelled embroidered insect brooch by Lyudmila Plotnikova, June 2017
She does things with materials that constantly innovate and extend the form.
She has brilliant new ideas about embroidery in three dimensions, like Michele Carragher. You can buy her art here, and hopefully someday I will! Many of her signed, unique pieces are designed to be worn as jewels or brooches. I think of the great European design and craftwork traditions, like Art Nouveau jewelry, when I see her work.
Gallery of bead embroidery art in progress from the Instagram of Lyudmila Plotnikova, 2017
Ms. Plotnikova is also incredibly generous with her process, sharing photos of works in progress. Being able to follow other artists on Instagram is so exhilarating, as much as I hate giving clicks to that pig Zuckerberg.
Here’s a couple good pieces about how women artists connect emotionally with creepy crawlies!
After last week’s feminist art salon, I was thinking about Pussy Power and the history of making vagina icon art.
I went home last Friday and started a pussy piece, and of course I was thinking of The Dinner Party. You can’t think about pussy art and embroidery without it.
It was sometime in the 80s that I first saw Judy Chicago‘s Dinner Party. It was as a black and white photo in the Village Voice, and I remember it so clearly. It was still shocking then; it’s still revolutionary now.
I have a lot of green materials around for the Green Woman project I’m working on. I had a sudden flash of inspiration for an image that would honor Annie Sprinkle and her Ecosexual work.
I became acquainted with Annie while I lived in the Bay Area and was exhibiting and drawing at Madison Young’s queer art gallery, Femina Potens.
We talked about my painting a portrait of Annie, but could never organize the timing. I still hope to, as Annie will be in Germany this summer!
I am going to raffle off this piece to raise money for Planned Parenthood.
Anyone who sends me a copy of their March $20 or more donation to Planned Parenthood (with your name, but personal details obscured of course!) will be entered to win the piece. As embroidery works take me a minimum of twenty hours, and this one took about twenty-five, it’s a chance to win a piece I would have to charge a lot for!
Calendar of Annie’s many world-wide feminist and ecosexual art activities here.
I made this embroidered beetle to lift my heart and give me the strength that working with color and sparkle does. It was part of my automatic-writing-for-art approach this month, like the Monster doll armada.
I just reached into my textile materials drawer and grabbed some scraps and bits, and told myself, You gotta make something with these.
There are four different types of lacework fabric and delicate cotton paper layered on a blue felt base, bits left from the very first materials I bought at my earliest trips to the art store in Berlin.
The blue felt undersurface is left over from the backing of the Hearts Afire pieces I made for my Cake Level Patrons in 2016.
Plus bead overflow from the Green Woman corset I’m working on, which is related to the Green Leaf Crowns I made last summer! I planned that project back in 2013-14 and brought all the materials in the shipping container.
You can see my project kit* for the Green Woman project at the top of these pics; I just raided it for beads and bling! This is the mess on a day I worked for eleven hours straight, just fiending on colors and sparkle.
I learn so much from studying the work of Game of Thrones embroidery artist Michele Carragher.
She has really radical approaches to layering sheer or lacework materials and doing bead embroidery in three dimensions.
I look forward to exploring ideas I borrowed from her for the mantis, like a wire lattice for sheer wings. Maybe this summer!
I also learned from her to do my bead embroidery in a hoop, whether or not it’s going to remain in the hoop.
Much easier, stronger, safer and neater to embroider or bead embroider on a sheer surface in a hoop. If your threads aren’t meltable you can iron a light interfacing onto the back to protect the finished embroidery, cut around the embroidery design, then sew it onto your clothes or lampshade or corset or whatever.
If your threads are synthetic and meltable, but you’re really worried about the strength/structural integrity of the piece, you can wipe a thin coat of archival gel glue on the back. Like E6000! I touched every knot on the back of this beetle with a bit of Tacky Glue, just to be sure it’s heirloom solid. I have to charge a lot for embroidery pieces, since they take a minimum of 30 hours to make, so I like to be sure they’re for the ages.
*project kit: I have a half dozen project kits still neatly boxed up and waiting in my workshop cabinets. I organize all the materials and supplies I need for a project into a “kit” that makes it easy to bust into and tackle. All those 90% off post-holiday sales at Michaels and JoAnn’s, all those years of saving every scrap of ribbon from a present, every bit of wrapping paper for a shadowbox or decoupage! I’ve been blazing through projects, I’ve finished at least a dozen since I finished building the kitchen/workshop, but I brought a LOT in the container.
Between Halloween and the Orange Catastrophe, I never posted most of the things I made in October.
And of course I’ve been making more in November, because handwork is my safe place.
I worked on the beaded crazy quilt mantel scarf for quite a while after Halloween, once I finally got my sewing machine working here.
You need a step-up step-down transformer to operate a US sewing machine in Germany.
However my machine is a computerized one with great automatic thread tensioning and I was terrified that the sheer power of European wall current would fry it. Finally I nerved myself up, plugged in the transformer and it was fine. The transformer gives off a bit of a chemical smell as it heats up, but that kind of thing never bothers me.
I’m still a raging helpless amateur on the sewing machine, anything I sew looks like wombat knitting.
Of course, I’ve spent a lot of time around extraordinary couture seamtresses and costumiéres, and I know I’ll never be even a regular competent sewer. But I don’t care. Using the machine makes me feel powerful and capable and it’s just so magic and fun.
My plan is to take the mantel scarf out before Halloween every year and add more beading, embroidery and quilting.
This hat is one of my “Uplift” projects. I found it in a 75% off bin at Michaels the fall before we left, coming apart, and threw it in the “Halloween Crafts on Arrival” box for the shipping container.
I love to carefully glue crappy things, and fix their carelessly made bits, and then add hours of careful crystal decoration and a vintage jet bead. I had these rooster feathers that precisely matched some scraps of sequin in the sequin trim scrap bag I got at Discount Fabrics for $5 years ago. Isn’t that nuts how they match?
I also spent a lot of time adding Swarovski crystals to a deer skull.
And gold leafing another skull. I used this weird star-patterned variegated gold leaf I got at Idée for super cheap; with my usual fingerpainting leafing technique, it didn’t really show.
After I leafed it I varnished it with acrylic glaze, then rubbed the still-tacky glaze with this pure bronze pigment powder. I bought the jar at the art-school art supply store in college in 1990 ’cause it was in a discount bin; I’ve still barely made a dent in it and I have used it for SO MANY THINGS.
Daria thought the black crystal-decorated skull was a little passé. Like, so gothsterday. Ah well, there’s no pleasing the young.
Creepy, right? And I did the first test of using my machine to add passementerie trim to one of my pillows that for some unknown reason, did not already have trim on it.
I had been feeling bad for this poor, undecorated pillow for years.
Also, I got this incredible animatronic talking vintage radio at Target in the US in September, and carefully brought it home.
However, it needed work; both Daria and I felt that the way the lights flashed around the top was overkill and not so nice.
So I painted the white faux-Bakelite strip black, applied varnish, roughly gold-leafed it with the same cheap variegated leaf, then used the bronze powder on it. And then Daria distressed it with more black paint, because she said it was still too glitzy. She was right, of course.
I probably would have made a lot more stuff in October, but I was really busy baking for Halloween.
And in November I was so stressed before the US election and so gutted afterwards that I lost a lot of creative time. And Leonard Cohen died. What the fucking fuck, 2016.
When we got back from the US last week I yanked the box marked “Halloween Craft Projects” off the shelf and tore into it.
I was basically crazed from exposure to American craft store Halloween displays.
The first thing I wanted to work on was beading this mass-market Halloween mantel scarf or banner that I bought at PierOne during an after-Halloween sale for my usual 75-90% off.
This is what I call an “Uplift” project, after the science fiction novels by David Brin.
I have never beaded anything as fast in my life as I did this project.
I love taking commercially made items that I bought for almost nothing and investing hours of meticulous labor in making them more beautiful.
It’s obviously fraught to buy mass-produced items in the first place; I always think of the person who made them.
I wonder how my buying these items at the end of their retail life, when they have basically become junk in the eyes of the retailer, impacts the commercial production cycle in other countries of Halloween crap for American consumers.
I don’t know the answer, but I do feel a connection when I do this, like my labor and the mystery factory worker’s labor is of equal value.
As if by adding hours of my highly trained privileged-artist love-labor to their object of work, I’m giving it more space in the world. A better chance of lasting.
As you can see I’ve also been working very slowly on the beaded leaf corset project.
I made the perhaps injudicious decision to individually bead some of the velvet leaves. And hand apply glass hotfix rhinestones to them. Heaven only knows how far I’ll go down that rabbithole.
I have an Instagram now, where you can see the delightful loot haul of green beads and crystals I recently obtained for the leaf corset!
This corset is one of those projects I’ve been planning for years.
I brought all the raw materials for it to Berlin in the shipping container. It took a decade to collect all the velvet leaves, beads and leaf-shaped lace.
I have no idea what I’ll do with it when it’s done. Who cares, it’s the making of it that’s the incredible joy.
Maybe we’ll have a Midsummer dinner party and I’ll wear it, maybe I’ll get a red wig and go to some comic thing as Victorian Gothic Poison Ivy.
This is my third heavily beaded/embroidered corset project, and I’ve learned a few things. Such as to do the heavy beading on a sheer fabric on a hoop first, to save wear and tear on my hand/wrist and reduce the amount of crappy random stitchery on the back. (You can see the previous two corsets here. The blue mermaid one is the same corset model as this one.)
I learned this from the generous and amazing website of Games of Thrones textile artist Michele Carragher. She creates the incredible, breathtaking detail of the costumes for GoT and other productions.
If you have never looked at these works in detail I cannot encourage you strongly enough.
I love her story because although she has a degree from the London College of Fashion she also has had a somewhat meandering career and is suddenly achieving great success well into her professional life. I wonder if she has a helper like I do?
An off-the-rack corset like this one from Orchard Corset has only a 10-12″ difference between waist and hips, so I have to modify it to add an additional four inches at the hips. That will be the next stage, after I finish seasoning it. I don’t usually bother to season corsets, because I’m lazy, I have a very corset-shaped body and I know exactly how to buy an OTR corset that fits me really well. (Don’t be like me! Season your corset!) In this case however I want to make sure changes in the shape happen before there’s additional decorative stitching, so as not to strain it. I started the beading first though, cause I needed its comforting, trancelike pleasure.
Although my daytime PTSD symptoms are much better now that the anniversary of Rob’s death and San Diego has passed, I’m still having sleep trouble. I have been kicking my husband awake fighting off nightmare assailants. I have to be very careful about how much I embroider since the tendonitis problems of 2013, but I’m clocking as much as I can.
I am so grateful I can work on this wonderful, soothing project. Hope you like it so far!